At the start of a new decade, and at a time when the climate crisis is centre stage, the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) believes the council should be looking at much bolder initiatives to deal with traffic in the town centre.
The current town centre road layout produces chronic pollution, congestion and serious accidents, some fatal. To add to that, the town is facing the impact of the additional 10,000+ vehicles, courtesy of new homes.
More Homes, More Cars
Over the next 10-15 years, Guildford will see an increase of housing – in the region of 14,000 new homes – 80% of which will be on the fringes of town in green belt sites. That suggests around 10,000 or more additional cars, many of which will want to make their way into town. That is unless efficient and attractively-priced alternative modes of travel exist.
GVG Says Let’s Get Radical
GVG, as part of its informal studies, has spent some time looking at more radical solutions. These include people-moving systems not unlike the pods at Heathrow Terminal 5 (below) and other options such as trams/tram trains, rail, and autonomous minibuses. Mass transit systems are evolving fast. Many are in use elsewhere, especially abroad.
The GVG Corridor
For the past eight years GVG has addressed the issues of the town centre and its regeneration. It has put forward its own masterplan, with a key piece of new infrastructure, a new east/west corridor. It’s the GVG suggestion to take cars away from the heart of our town. GVG’s proposed road layout only caters for a relatively modest growth, 10% or so, in current traffic levels.
Bill Stokoe, chair of GVG says “Let’s be clear – with its corridor proposal GVG is not seeking to attract more traffic. It simply wants to move it and the associated pollution away from the very heart of our town to allow pedestrians to be centre stage, not cars.
It is a relatively quick and productive solution to allow wider pedestrianisation of the town centre. It delivers exciting public space opportunities, especially along the riversides, and other benefits such as a covered open market.”
Bold and Imaginative Solutions
GVG will be urging the council to implement a study of bold and imaginative solutions as to how best to get people in and out of the town centre.
Any short to medium term plan for Town Centre transport must include:
• Better use of what we have – e.g. an improved park & ride network, including routes that cross town from one P&R site to another, more bus lanes, and better use of the rail system including fast tracking the proposed new stations.
• Better integration of bus and rail services and better interchanges – making public transport easy to use by smart card ticketing across the rail and bus network and including park and ride.
• Better regulation – using regulation and pricing to help preserve the town. Visitors arriving by road need to be encouraged to use park and ride wherever possible. Priority should be given to buses.
Waiting On The A3
While the A3 and its improvement through Guildford is an important piece of infrastructure investment, the council can’t put addressing the town centre traffic issues on hold till that happens.
Public Acceptance Needed
But for serious study and work to begin, there must be wide public acceptance that something bold must be done. Are people prepared to change their habits? What will change their habits? Pricing? Law and regulation? Wholehearted acceptance of the climate change case? GVG is calling for ideas from the public – email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The fast pace of technological change makes it very difficult to commit to long-term investment without putting that investment in danger of a future disrupter. Yet stakeholders – especially residents and businesses – cannot afford to just stand by and see the town centre gradually fade away.